Today in Literary History – December 9, 1854 – “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is published

Alfred Lord Tennyson’s narrative poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” was first published on December 9, 1854, less than six weeks after the Battle of Balaclava that is its subject.

6a00d8341c650653ef0120a5fb855c970c-pi.jpg

The battle was part of the Crimean War and was a defeat for the British Light Cavalry Brigade at the hands of the Russians. The battle was one of the most famous “blunders” in military history as Lord Raglan ordered the Light Brigade to charge on horseback, armed only with swords, into cannon fire. 100 of the 600 who charged were killed.

z_p38-Eagle.jpg

Tennyson was the British poet laureate at the time. He wrote the poem to celebrate military heroism in blindly following orders even if they considered them to be foolhardy. The message may be dated, but the poem’s compelling metre and drama keep it popular today.

Here’s the poem:

The Charge of the Light Brigade
I
HALF a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
II
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
III
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
IV
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
V
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
VI
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s